Collect 5-7 randomly selected samples from throughout the area of concern. Collect the soil from under plants halfway between the center of the plant and the outer edge of the branches. (See more below.) Brush aside any organic matter before digging sample holes approximately 3" deep by 2-3" wide with a trowel or garden knife. Place all samples from the same testing area together in a plastic bag- no need to break up the clods. Write sample name and date on the outside of the bag in permanent marker. Do not put a paper label in the bag with the sample.
For best results, separate sample areas based on the type of plant material growing in that space.
For example, a yard that has turf surrounded by shrub beds with a berm of evergreen trees in the corner would require three different soil samples. Sample one is turf with 5-7 soil samples taken throughout the turf area. Sample two is shrub bed with 5-7 samples taken throughout the shrub bed and sample three is the evergreen berm with 5-7 samples taken throughout the area.
Try to take some samples somewhat close to plant roots. If you don't know where the roots are, pretend it is high-noon, then sample along the edge of the shadow cast by the plant. If it's a tree that is too large, do the best you can.
Samples can be collected a day or two before testing. When sealing the sample bag, be sure there is a cushion of air so the microbes have plenty of available oxygen.
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